Three New Reads To Sink Your Teeth Into

“Eat A Peach” By David Chang

It’s taken four years of procrastination, endless missed deadlines, and the overcoming of persistent personal demons for celebrated Chef David Chang to write “Eat a Peach” (Clarkson Potter). But it was well worth the wait.

The chef who grew a bare-bones New York ramen joint into the global juggernaut now known as Momofuku has written an honest, earnest, and raw memoir. Whether you’re a fan of the man or of his restaurants, you won’t be able to put this down.

His meteoric rise in the industry might seem like calculated genius. But in reality, he writes, much of it happened by accident and in spite of being undiagnosed for years as bipolar, which manifested itself in blazing rage, alarming tantrums, and the punching of several walls, and not to mention suicidal thoughts.

You’ll learn how the PBS series “The Mind of A Chef” came about after its first iteration failed; how and why Chang started — and closed — his Lucky Peach magazine; how his hiring of Christina Tosi as both pastry chef and protocol specialist saved his butt; and how getting married and becoming a father have grounded him like never before.

Like the book’s cover art of a man struggling to push a giant peach up a steep hill, Chang’s culinary and life journey has been fraught. But it’s made his accomplishments all the sweeter, as a result.

“Every Night Is Pizza Night” By J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Forgive little Pipo, the protagonist of “Every Night Is Pizza Night” (Norton Young Readers), for being adamant that pizza is the best. After all, I’m sure many of us would concur, my husband included.

James Beard Award-winning author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (W.W. Norton, 2015), J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has written first children’s book. It takes kids of all ages on a delightful journey as little Pipo discovers that more than one thing can indeed be best.

Along the way, she realizes that it pays to open her stomach and mind, especially to other cultures, because you just might find something — or someone — new to adore.

The book comes to life with winsome illustrations by Oakland artist Gianna “Gigi” Ruggiero.

Of course, a recipe is included at the end for “Pipo’s Pizza.” And since it was created by food science expert Lopez-Alt, you know it’s got to rock.

“Always Home” by Fanny Singer

The love between mother and daughter is ever organic, but ever more profoundly so, of course, when it happens to be between Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters and her daughter Fanny Singer.

In “Always Home” (Knopf), Singer shares what it was like to grow up with the woman who revolutionized California cuisine, whose ethos of sustainable and organic had a profound effect on generations of chefs, farmers, food purveyors and diners.

Waters’ only child, Singer literally grew up at the iconic Berkeley restaurant, with her mother plopping her down into a huge salad bowl or pot as a makeshift crib in the kitchen, while she worked.

It’s a childhood marked by remarkable experiences, such as summers spent in France with the late-great winemaker Lulu Peyraud, whose family runs the esteemed Domaine Tempier. And an upbringing involving a who’s who of the culinary world, including Kermit Lynch, owner of Berkeley’s fabled Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant store, who happens to be Singer’s godfather.

Readers who may assume Singer and Waters coexist in a rather rarefied world, are sure to breathe a sigh of relief that Singer admits she has been to Costco like the rest of us, and that her mother is not above devouring bags of potato chips while waiting at the airport. Singer also divulges a few of her mother’s quirks — the stashing all manner of unlikely foodstuffs at the bottom of her purse; the habit of rearranging lamps and furniture anywhere she’s staying to make it all just so; and her innate need to start cooking something in her kitchen the moment she drops her bags to the floor after returning from a trip.

Whereas someone like a David Chang writes in a very colloquial manner, as if he were telling you his life story over a few beers, Singer’s prose is evocative in a more opulent way, as befitting the Yale and University of Oxford graduate that she is.

There are about 60 recipes included in the book. Each has a special meaning to both mother and daughter, including the famous (infamous) “Egg Fried in a Spoon in the Fireplace,” as well as others so intertwined with Chez Panisse, such as “After-Dinner Fruit.”

For anyone who’s ever enjoyed a meal at this landmark, this book offers a different, more personal lens into the woman who made it all possible.

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  • Full disclosure: I’ve eaten at Chez Panisse several times and always wondered why the hype: each meal was mediocre at best, and attending a session with Alice Waters as the featured speaker revealed her to be a one-note pony; however, this book was given to me as a birthday gift by my best foodie friend, and I have to say that it’s very well-written, insightful, and the last few chapters were a total delight. It’s obvious that Fanny adores her mother but is not blind to her eccentricities. I highly recommend it.

  • Claudette: I’m glad you loved the book so much — if not the restaurant. 😉

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